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Working to Improve Our Service to You

Our new returns system is here! This new system will allow us to better serve you and more accurately handle the 2 million+ items you checkout each year by automatically checking in returns as you put them into the slot. "Why aren't my returned items checked in yet"? is the most common question we receive over the phone and through our website, and our new system will take care of most of those issues.

With our budget cuts due to the recession — we've cut nearly 20%, or $1.2 million, from our budget since 2008 — we have held nearly all vacant positions open to save money. With fewer people working, but ever-increasing demand for materials (we hit a record of 2 million checkouts in 2009), we have struggled to keep up with all of the work that needs to be done. Many of you have experienced this when you return an item to the library and it takes us a day to clear your record. After holiday closures, it was not uncommon for us to need several days to catch up with all of the returns. We are only human, and simply reached a breaking point where our manual processes could not keep up.

Realizing that we were overwhelmed, a team of library staff who know and do the work examined how we do things and made suggestions for improvement. One of their suggestions was to install an automated checkin and sorting system (the conveyor system we are using is the same as/similar to conveyor and sorting systems used by UPS, USPS, Netflix, and Wal-Mart) that would let us devote more staff time to shelving and other patron services, such as retrieving and processing holds. These suggestions coincided with our need to upgrade our RFID inventory system, and last year we began the work of retagging all of our 300,000 materials with new RFID tags, eliminating nearly all of the locking cases that so many of you hated, and six months ago we launched new checkout, self-checkout, and processing equipment.

This past spring, our Copy Center services were distributed to other areas of the library, and the room converted for the new Sorting Room. New outside and inside return slots were installed, which feed directly into that space. The sorting system arrived this week, and today's launch of our new Sorting Room marks the end of this long journey. The majority of returns will be checked in and removed from your record automatically and pre-sorted into categories (bins). This means fewer hands have to touch items to get them back on the shelves. This, along with the other improvements made and suggested by our staff, means your library card record is more accurate, we will make fewer errors, and you'll see faster turn-around of items to the hold shelf or their home shelf location.

Check out our video for a demonstration, or stop by during our regular hours to look through the glass doors and see the sorting system in action.

These improvements were funded through the library's savings account and the generous donations of the Friends of the Library. We still have some kinks to work out — nicer signage for the new outside return slot, for example, among other things — and I thank you for your support, patience, and good humor while we work on fine-tuning our new system.

Best,

Eva M. Davis, Director